I wrote this several years ago after several photos of Ellie were stolen from my blog and Facebook and used to fundraise for a fake organization:
How many times have I signed onto Facebook lately and seen a post that says something like, "Share this photo if you support kids with (Down syndrome, autism, cancer, special needs, diabetes, etc, etc, etc.)"?
I don't like it.
I happen to "support" a lot of kids with special needs, and special health needs, and kids in general.
I parent a kid with Down syndrome. I teach special education.
I happen to really like kids with special needs. What I don't like is feeling manipulated into a page getting more Facebook "likes."
"Do you think this precious angel deserves (Fill in the blank with something fairly obvious - Happiness, Joy, etc)? Share this and like my page!"
Now, I have a couple options as a Facebook reader.
Option a) Ignore the post. Act like I don't like kids with Down syndrome or autism or whatever. That makes me a chump who hates kids with special needs, which isn't true.
Option b) Like the post. But I don't like the post. I might like the kid. I might KNOW the kid. I may have even given birth to the kid. (See below.) But I don't think "liking" the post will do anything for kids with special needs.
The problem gets worse when I disagree with the sentiment. "My only special need is love!" Um, really? That was actually posted on a photo of a child with Down syndrome.** As the parent of a child with Down syndrome, I can tell you that my child, who does need (and receive) love also has some special needs in the areas of gross motor, fine motor, speech and language development, cognition, and health. If she had no special needs aside from love, I wouldn't want her to have an IEP to ensure that she receives accommodations for special education. The mandate for a Free and Appropriate Public Education is not a mandate for "just love." It requires an appropriate public education for kids with different (a.k.a. special) needs.
The problem gets worse when the Facebook page owners take the following steps.
1) Google image search "cute kid with Down syndrome" or something similar.
2) Click on photo in the search results. For fun, let's say it's a photo of Ellie. That photo will appear on a big black background next to the words, "This image may be subject to copyright."
3) Save photo of Ellie and then either..
a) Share it as their own directly OR
b) Edit it, then share it as their own
4) Ask all their followers to "Like this precious angel" or "Share if you think kids with Down syndrome are amazing!"
Note: Some big Down syndrome pages solicit photos. I've had Down syndrome groups ask to use Ellie's photo. I generally say "yes."
Now, when I see a post that says "Like this page if you support kids with Down syndrome" and it has a photo of my kid that is a copyrighted photo and that photo has been edited, I feel violated.
And half the time, I disagree with the quotes I see.
That has happened a lot lately. So Facebook users everywhere, I am asking for your help with some practical action steps.
STEP ONE: If you see a photo posted that says "Support kids with ____" and the photo does not lead back to a practical way to support kids with _____, please do not share without asking some questions. Is it a cool quote with the photographer or parent acknowledged? Probably okay. Is it a grainy kid picture with a piece of cropped out watermark showing? Ignore that sucker. Determine which photos are advocacy photos with a message worth sharing.
STEP TWO: If you see a photo of my child on a Facebook page that does not link back to my blog or my personal page, please let me know. A very kind blog reader alerted me to some recent issues. I have alerted other mamas. This should be true for ANY child you recognize whose photo is used online.
STEP THREE: If you are a parent and you see this happen to your child, fill out a Facebook form for violation of intellectual property. You'll need to enter the link directly to the image, and show proof that the photo was on your blog first. Generally, a direct link to your blog post is sufficient.
STEP FOUR: If you see a photo you want to use on Google Images, follow the link to the source. Then, ask the source.
STEP FIVE: If you want to help kids with Down syndrome, please support your local Down syndrome group.
Here are some other organizations that work with kids and adults with special needs. I'm sure they'd love your support.
Young Life Capernaum (This is a Christian organization, just FYI for full disclosure.)
** The kid in the "My only special need is love!" photo was my kid. It was posted without my permission.